Protests Don't Help Communities, But Walmart Does

There is a gathering scheduled on June 30 in protest of our new store planned for downtown L.A. With county-wide unemployment concerns, city budget shortfalls and families struggling to make ends meet, L.A. residents aren't looking for protests -- they're looking for solutions. So it's unfortunate that the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) continues to focus its energies on a selective campaign of "no" when it comes to new jobs, fresh sources of tax revenue, revitalized neighborhoods and more affordable shopping options.

After all, protests don't employ people, but new stores do.

With the County unemployment rate above 11 percent, one would think that an effort to create private sector jobs would be applauded, especially from a business that offers competitive wages, affordable benefits and the chance to build a career. At Walmart, our average hourly full-time store associates earn more than $5 above the federal minimum wage; we promoted more than 161,000 hourly associates last year; we recently paid out more than $200 million in quarterly bonuses to 88 percent of eligible store associates; and health care coverage is available for as little as $15 per pay period. For those reasons and more, over 72,000 people choose to work for Walmart in California and nationally, more than 300,000 associates have been with the company for more than 10 years.

Protests don't help communities, revitalized neighborhoods do.

Our three planned Neighborhood Markets -- Downtown, Panorama City and Altadena -- will not only employ a combined total of close to 200 people, but each store also will each replace a dormant property.

Communities always prefer a vibrant storefront over an abandoned building and our stores will generate tax revenue for the city and county while also serving as a magnet for growth and development in each community. From restaurants, salons, banks, and florists to bookstores, specialty grocers and wine & spirits shops, there are dozens of small business categories that typically surround our stores.

Protests don't help lower the cost of living, but new shopping options do.

Good jobs and community revitalization are not enough for the average family. Increasing costs have left middle class families with less purchasing power. One way to work towards solutions is to improve access to affordable products. Our LA stores will serve as a new option for customers and likely bring down prices in the surrounding area, helping residents stretch their paychecks a little bit further. According to IHS Global Insight, an independent research firm, our presence "translates directly into savings for consumers amounting to $330 billion in 2009. This corresponds to savings of $1,080 per person and $2,800 per household.*" That's why we expect to serve more than 170,000 customers at our LA County stores today alone.

In these challenging economic times, private sector companies have a responsibility to work with local stakeholders in a given community to ensure residents and business both benefit. We're engaging with communities here to better understand the unique challenges they face and how our stores might play a role in the solution.

What we're hearing is that residents want job opportunities, bustling shopping districts and better access to fresh food. Perhaps it's time for groups like LAANE to stop focusing on the next protest and start thinking about ways to help give communities what they need.

* Savings regardless of where the consumer shops. The Price Impact of Wal-Mart: An Update Through 2009, March 26, 2010